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Fearless Forecast of the NHL Playoffs - Conference Quarterfinals

I go out on a (shaky) limb to pick the first round of the NHL playoffs
Tuesday, 04.30.2013 / 5:31 PM ET
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out
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My history as a NHL playoff prognosticator is checkered at best.

With the exception of one horseshoe-attached-to-my-fingertips spring a few years back, I have basically been mediocre at picking the playoffs.

Since 2005-06, my collective record is as follows:

(Totals are based on each series picked round-by-round)

2005-06: 10-5

2006-07: 8-7

2007-08: 9-6

2008-09: 13-2

2009-10:11-4

2010-11: 8-7

2011-12: 9-6

Totals: 68-37 (64.8 percent)

That’s barely enough to cover the vig – especially with how many upsets occur in the NHL playoffs.

Alas, people have requested my picks. So, for entertainment purposes only – anything else would be downright crazy – here’s how I see the first round playing out:

Eastern Conference:

Pittsburgh vs. New York Islanders – The Penguins are clearly the superior team, and maybe the best team in the tournament, but the Islanders have shown some serious chutzpa and I think John Tavares emerged as a real Hart Trophy candidate this year. With Sidney Crosby’s return still uncertain, I think the Isles can make it a series. But that’s about it. Penguins in six.

Montreal vs. Ottawa – I have to admit, I looked at that Canadiens roster at the start of the season and thought they had a shot at the first overall pick in the draft this year. That’s how little I know. Nevertheless, there’s something about this Montreal team that I still don’t like when it comes to the thought of an extended playoff run. Meanwhile, Ottawa is a team that has no business being in the playoffs after all they’ve been through injury-wise this season. Yet their resilience and determination has been impressive. That’s why I’m taking the upset. Senators in six.

Washington vs. New York Rangers – Definitely the best series of the first round in the East and one I wish didn’t have to happen. Both of these teams were playing very good hockey down the stretch and could make a lengthy run in the playoffs. Alex Ovechkin has returned to Hart Trophy form after a miserable start to the season, while Henrik Lundqvist remains the difference-maker for the Rangers. However, King Henrik can’t steal the series all by himself, which is why I’m going the other way with this pick. However, unless somehow it’s a short series, I can’t see either team surviving past round two right now because of how physically demanding the series will be. Capitals in seven.

Boston vs. Toronto – They may be the closest in seeding in the East, but they are not that close when it comes to being playoff-ready. The Bruins are battle-tested. The Leafs, are happy to be here after a nine-year absence. The Bruins play great defense and have a superior goalie in Tuukka Rask. The Leafs stay will be brief. Bruins in five.

Western Conference

Chicago vs. Minnesota – The Blackhawks are a machine. They score a ton of a goals and more importantly play stellar 5-on-5 defense. If they get a lead, forget about it. That’s going to make the Wild’s stay in the playoffs a short one. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter won’t be able to make the difference Minnesota fans had hoped for because both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have been MVP-type players and the rest of the ‘Hawks have followed. Blackhawks in five.

Anaheim vs. Detroit – In most years, this would have been a flip-flopped seeding and a flip-flopped selection for me. Not this year. The Ducks operated for much of this season in the shadow of the neighboring reining champion Los Angeles Kings as well as behind the early-season point streak of the Blackhawks. Now, is their time to shine. The Red Wings got hot at the right time to make the playoffs for a 22nd straight year, but their defense just isn’t the same and the Ducks have a lot of firepower – and are playing for Teemu Selanne, who will likely retire at season’s end. Ducks in six.

Vancouver vs. San Jose – While many would think this matchup is lopsided, I say think again. The Sharks have played excellent hockey over the final month, buoyed by probable Vezina Trophy candidate Antti Niemi. The Canucks have peaked at the right time too, but they are always haunted by the goalie carousel constantly spinning. I think they survive, but don’t be surprised if the Sharks pull a stunner. Canucks in seven.

St. Louis vs. Los Angeles – Bar none, the best series of the first round. Do yourself a favor, and don’t miss a minute of this series. You just might find yourself falling in love with the way both teams play. It’s a shame one of them has to go home so early. The unfortunate thing is, by these two teams playing one another right off the bat, it might make it easier for other teams down the road – much like the situation with Washington and the Rangers in the East. Still, this one will be a beaut – and it can go either way. So much so, that I just changed my mind… again. Blues in seven.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
S. Gostisbehere 6 1 1 0 2
B. Schenn 6 0 2 2 2
W. Simmonds 6 0 2 -1 2
S. Gagner 6 0 2 1 2
J. Voracek 6 1 0 -1 1
M. Raffl 6 1 0 0 1
R. White 6 1 0 0 1
C. VandeVelde 6 1 0 -1 1
A. MacDonald 6 1 0 0 1
B. Manning 6 0 1 -2 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Neuvirth 2 1 0 .981 0.67
S. Mason 0 3 0 .852 4.09
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